Do "High-Touch" Branch Experiences Help Your Brand?

image I honestly don’t think branches will be extinct anytime soon. Yes, I think they will drastically shrink in size/staff as transactional activity is eliminated. But they are part of the American landscape, provide a convenient place to open accounts, and reinforce your brand.

Or do they?

I spent 34 minutes in a branch today and came away with a number of brand impressions, none of them good. Here’s the blow-by-blow account (skip to the Bottom Line section if you, too, have recently sent a wire from a bank branch). 

Yesterday, I went to a small branch of a major bank to send a $20,000 international wire, something I’ve done only once before. I missed the “12 or 12:30” cutoff time and was told I’d need to come back tomorrow (note 1). They were nice about it, but it was 15 to 20 minutes wasted, although I did grab a tasty Americano across the street, so it wasn’t all bad.

Today, I was near a much larger branch, so I decided to give it a try, hoping that the process would go faster with more staff available. It was mid-morning on a Friday (note 2) with only two or three customers in the branch and at least six employees, so I thought I’d made a good decision. Unfortunately, the only person available that could process an international wire was the busy branch manager (note 3), and I was directed to a seat on the couch where I waited for 12 minutes watching the six employees handle a trickle of customers.

No one approached me during this time to offer an update on the wait. Finally, the harried branch manager stepped over and apologized for being “slammed” (even though the branch was nearly deserted) and went on to explain his staffing woes that would soon be over since there were “three job offers out at that moment.” 

At that point, I had to turn over my driver’s license, tell him my Social Security Number, and then wait another 22 minutes as he hammered away on the computer to complete the wire. At least once I’m pretty sure he was typing an email to someone, and he also made a quick phone call about another matter. Along the way, he asked me for the symbol for British pounds. Since I didn’t know, he proceeded to the back room (where more employees were hidden, note 4), and since they didn’t know, he said he would Google it. And he did. 

Next, he handed me all the info on the transfer so I could proof his work. And, like the last time I sent an in-branch wire, an error popped out. The form stated payment was for a boat, which, besides being incorrect, was especially interesting since the money was headed to London. He blamed the autofill on the computer (why would autofill be enabled on wire transfer forms?).

I said I wished this could be done online, and he said it had to be done in branch to reduce fraud and money-laundering. While that may have been an okay answer, he then contradicted himself and said if I did more than two wires per month, I should consider the bank’s $100/mo commercial service. So much for the fraud problem, I guess.

imageFinally, he walked across the room to call in the wire (why didn’t he use the phone on his desk?). He completed the process by scratching in pencil on the back of his business card my confirmation number and U.S. dollar equivalent of the transfer (see inset). Apparently, the branch’s wire system doesn’t provide an automated receipt.

Bottom line: Branch proponents say that consumers value the “personal touch” and hand-holding that branches provide on major transactions. And that those warm feelings create trust and positive brand associations. 

So what were my takeaway “brand impressions” after my experience today? (And I’m not saying these things are necessarily true, but they are my very real perceptions). 

  • They do not value my time: First, I had to make a second trip since I’d missed the cutoff. Then on the second trip, it took 34 minutes to complete the process.    
  • The bank is inefficient: The branch manager had to spend 22 minutes with me to generate $50 in fees. And I was in a huge, 10,000 square-foot structure with a large parking lot and 30-foot ceilings, that was serving a trickle of customers with a bevy of staffers. 
  • The staff is poorly trained and/or lack tech support: The branch is “slammed” with 3 customers across 6 employees! The branch manager has to use Google to fill out the wire transfer form.
  • The systems are cobbled together: Employees have to find currency abbreviations on their own. The wire had to be “called” in by the branch manager.  My “receipt” was handwritten on a business card. 
  • They made me feel less than secure: I had to tell him my Social Security Number out loud, which is always unnerving when you don’t really know who’s listening. And they left me scratching my head about wire fraud.
  • It must be a crappy place to work: They were down 3 employees, despite a 9+% unemployment rate.  

On the plus side: The staff was very friendly, cookies were on the counter, and I got a blog post out of it. That helps. A lot.


1. I’m not sure why they couldn’t take my info today and send the wire tomorrow, something they had done before on a domestic wire. 
2. He did mention something about an “operational audit” going on, so this might not be the normal experience. Although the last time I sent a wire at another branch, it took even longer because that manager “was learning the new system.” 
3. The astute reader will notice that today is Wednesday, not Friday. I wrote this a few weeks ago on a Friday afternoon and held it until today. Frankly, I wasn’t sure whether to publish another “analyst whines about customer service” post. I promise it’s my last one of the year.
4. I’m not naming the bank, because this is a story about two visits to two branches which may or may not reflect what goes on in other parts of the bank. But I will name the bank via private email if you promise not to publish it. Just drop me a line.
5. Graphic upper right: Kinesis

Arvest Bank Adds Suite of Calculators and Other Non-Transactional Services to iPhone App

image Like American Express, Arvest Bank is one of the dozen or so U.S. financial institutions with multiple apps in the Apple iTunes App Store (note 1). The bank has one app for account access and another which can be used only to find its branches and ATMs (app link).

Arvest iphone app v2.0

However, the non-transactional app, which debuted last November, is undergoing a major facelift, with version 2.0 due in the store shortly. The bank offered a sneak peek on its blog this week (see inset).

The update contains four new functions:

  • Calculators: The app now includes access to a suite of 40 financial calculators (e.g., loan payment calculator) saving customers the time and hassle of searching for similar tools within the App Store.
  • Customer Connect will use the user’s GPS location to provide location-sensitive customer service contacts, a great way for a financial institution to demonstrate their commitment to local service. 
  • Current Rates are easily accessible from a single button on the main page.
  • Arvest News houses its blog feed.

Bottom line: While these functions have been common on websites for a decade, as far as I know, this is the first app from a bank or credit union that includes all these features. Nice work.

1. In a search at, there are currently 583 iPhone apps in the finance category with “bank” in their name or description. Another 483 contain “credit union” for a total of 1,066 banking apps. Not all of these are from financial institutions, but an estimated 70% to 80% FI apps.

Let’s Do a Better Job Handling Rejected Online Loan Applicants

image If you’ve ever worked at a financial institution, you’ve no doubt heard the often-true horror stories from the loan department. You know the ones, where senator so-and-so’s spouse or the CEO’s brother were turned down for a car loan (see note 1).

The problem with automated loan systems is that there is no human doing a reality check on denied applications. Was it really a deadbeat applying or did someone just make a mistake on the application form? You can bet if a senator’s spouse had applied for the loan in person the loan officer would have picked up some clues that maybe this app deserved some extra scrutiny.

But the flip side to human involvement is discrimination, whether intentional or not. A huge benefit to automated loan decisioning is the virtual elimination of certain biases from the process. Computer algorithms only evaluate the factors they’ve been told to look at. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

And because computer analysis has put more science into the underwriting process (notwithstanding the recent housing bubble), most people agree that it’s generally been good for the bank and (most) consumers. But even the best system will generate a certain number of false negatives leading to the occasional embarrassing decline.

So it’s worth considering installing a second-look system in your online process, providing wrongly denied applicants another chance at proving themselves worthy, before they end up embarrassing your CEO at their next family gathering.  

And why might I be thinking these thoughts? Yesterday, I went online to accept the direct mail offer from a major credit card issuer who’s sent me more than 100 solicitations over the past decade (note 2). And I was flat-out rejected. Either I fell victim to a false negative or the issuer’s underwriting is not in sync with their marketing.

The application process = great
The online acceptance process itself was flawless. I typed in my registration code, answered a few questions, and hit enter. It had taken about 3 minutes up to that point. Then wham! Twenty-four seconds later, the application was denied (note 3).

The rejection process = sucks 
And even though I could live without the card (note 4), it’s frustrating and disappointing to be turned down flat with no recourse. Especially after being aggressively solicited for years.

And the company pretty much disowns you after the bad news. The website returns a two-sentence rejection thanking you for your interest, saying that they couldn’t approve the request, and that they’ll followup in writing in a couple weeks explaining their reasoning. And BTW, please don’t apply again for at least 45 days. No apology. No email. No phone (or even email) to contact for more info. No referral to the credit bureaus or other resources. Just a simple, cold brush-off.

So I went back to the direct mail letter and called the number listed there. The bank rep said there was no way to look at the app I’d entered minutes earlier to see why it was denied. All he could do was take another new app, but he warned that the system wouldn’t like seeing multiple apps and would likely reject it again.

Recommendations: You cannot avoid making credit denials, lots of them. And you can’t avoid the occasional false negative. But you can, and should, create a way for online applicants to ask for a second look, and perhaps correct any errors that they might have made. And if you can’t do that, at least be compassionate with the immediate messaging and try to offer some helpful resources.  

My three-step, face-saving, loan-denial process:

1. Thank the applicant and apologize for not meeting their needs. Say this both on the website and in a followup email.

2. Explain that although you’re not perfect, there appears to be circumstances in the application that preclude you from offering credit at this time. Refer them to Credit Karma, Quizzle, or other credit resources to view their credit score and learn more.

3. Provide a second-chance option either through email or telephone for applicants with strong credit to ask for a human review. 

Optional: For customers you must turn down now, but who you think might be good future prospects for loans and/or other products, or who are already profitable existing customers, consider sending a consolation prize: $5 statement credit, a Starbucks card, two-for-one movie certificate, etc. 

Second-look apps would need a higher level of scrutiny to ensure against those trying to game the system. But there will likely be some gems uncovered in the process. 


1. My favorite personal story of botched celebrity banking happened at First Interstate Bank of Washington where I worked in the late 1980s. Bill Gates, whose mom was on our board, supposedly used what was then our “state-of-the-art” telephone bill-payment service. Apparently, we didn’t send off his mortgage payment and the late fee we ate was more revenue than the entire bill-pay program generated in a month. It happened a few months before I started working there, so I can’t vouch 100% for its accuracy. But I can tell you it was a popular story within the bank with a “failed tech” angle and a juicy tidbit about the outlandish size of the mortgage on the Gates property.    
2. This is a rare situation where I’m not naming the company in a public blogpost because a credit denial is such an individual thing. It doesn’t seem fair to single them out for one incident which is most likely not indicative of the normal experience there. However, I will disclose the name on an individual basis if you email me and promise not to post it publicly.  
3. I’m not sure what went wrong with the application. I have several decades of excellent credit, zero inquiries in the past 6 months, reasonable debt-to-income, and a decent level of household income. And I checked all three bureaus recently and everything was fine. However, the bureaus do have inconsistent, and partially incorrect, info about my employment history. But the application did not ask for employer name, so I don’t see how that could have sunk it.  
4. I actually planned to use the card frequently; it had better terms than the one I was hoping to replace.

Part 2: Chase Apologizes for Outage in Customer Email but is Light on Details

image Over the weekend, Chase Bank sent a short email apology to its online customers. Overall, the message was fine and now the bank can check that off its to-do list.

I’m glad the bank didn’t waste a hundred million dollars giving everyone a $5 credit. A simple apology is the best approach, preferably during the actual outage. This message, six days after the initial downtime, is a bit sub-par for a company with the resources of Chase (for a review of its initial communications, see our previous post and today’s review at The Financial Brand).

Analysis of the Chase email (screenshot below): Overall, the email message was adequate. The title was good, “Please accept our apologies.” And that was all most people needed to hear. But I’m a little surprised by the lack of detail provided within the message. Especially, considering the much better note posted to over the weekend, then apparently taken down (see note 1 below).

In Sunday’s email, Chase reassured customers that “(your) account information was not compromised.” That’s great, but the bank could have scored extra points by saying exactly what went wrong, how they fixed it, and what they are doing to prevent a recurrence (this info could be delivered via a link to more detail on the website.) 

The bank should also have made the apology unconditional. Chase’s exact words (italics mine), “we apologize if this created difficulties” and “please accept our apology for any inconvenience this may have caused.” Forget the conditions. Assume it inconvenienced everyone and just straight-up say you are sorry.

Another no-small thing. A note of apology should be from an actual person (like the bank’s website message, note 1). The lack of a signer imparts a nagging impression that no one at the bank has stepped up to own the problem. An email address or phone number for additional info would also make it seem more sincere.

Finally, according to the info posted on the site over the weekend, the bank is covering late fees caused by the outage (see note 1). Perhaps that email went only to bill-pay customers (which I am not). But still, why not mention it?  


PS  One last question and then we’ll move on, promise. Why was the online apology taken down after just a few days? Many customers affected by the outage will never see the all-important public apology on the bank’s homepage (see screenshot at The Financial Brand).

Chase Bank apology email (19 Sep 2010, 2PM Pacific)

  Chase Bank apology email (19 Sep 2010)

1. According to the New York CBS affiliate, the following appeared on the Chase website on Friday, 17 Sep (link):

We are sorry for the difficulties that recently affected and we apologize for not communicating better with you about this issue. As you may know, we experienced a significant service interruption and Online Bill Payments that were scheduled to be sent on September 13, 14, or 15, 2010, were sent by the morning of September 16, 2010.

If you scheduled a payment to be sent during those dates, but do not see it reflected in your payment activity by September 16, 2010, please contact us.

We are working hard to make sure that any late fees you may have incurred as a result of this processing delay are being refunded:

  • If your payment was to another Chase account (for example, Chase Credit Card Services), we are automatically refunding any late fees.
  • If your payment was to anyone other than Chase (for example, your telephone service, utilities or another financial institution), we are contacting many payees to prevent late fees from being charged.
  • However, if your payee charged you a late fee, please call us at one of the numbers below or visit your nearest Chase branch. We will refund the late fee to you.

We recommend that you keep this letter in case you need to provide information to your payee.

Please be assured that Chase’s online security has not been compromised as a result of this service interruption. Your accounts and confidential information remain safe and secure.

Giving you 24-hour access to your banking is of the utmost importance to us. This was not the level of service we know you expect, and we will work hard to serve and communicate with you better in the future.

Again, please accept our apology for this disruption and thank you for your patience. If you have any questions, please stop by your nearest Chase branch or call:

  • 1-800-935-9935 for Personal accounts
  • 1-877-CHASEPC (1-877-242-7372) for Business accounts
  • 1-800-848-9136 for Home Lending and Auto accounts
  • For credit card accounts, please call the number on the back of your card


Patricia O. Baker
Senior Vice President
Chase Executive Office

Lessons from Chase’s Online Banking Outage

image For much of Tuesday (see note 1), Chase Bank had a message in the upper left corner of its website saying that the website was temporarily unavailable “due to scheduled system maintenance” (screenshot here). Later in the day, the bank finally took that excuse down and merely said that the site is “temporarily unavailable” (see screenshot below and inset).

The outage appears to have afflicted iPhone app users as well. I tried several times and was not able to connect. But, unfortunately, and here’s a new downside for an app compared to a website, there is no way for the bank to warn users within the app that there’s a back-end problem. So users just tried and tried to connect. 

Interestingly, text banking seemed to continue working, at least on the card side. During the outage I was able to retrieve the current balance and available credit via a text message to the bank’s shortcode. That could be an interesting side benefit to text banking, “works if the website is down.”

Lessons for Netbankers: There’s no way to avoid the occasional tech glitch. The important thing is how you handle it. Today’s salient lessons reveal how to communicate during downtime, scheduled or otherwise.

1. Homepage warning: The message on the website is crucial, and Chase does an okay job prominently posting a concise warning on the homepage. Sure, the bank could have been more specific, but when you are in the middle of an IT crisis, there often isn’t a whole lot more that can be said. Still, they were tardy in pulling the “scheduled maintenance” excuse down.

Chase website grade = B-

2. Referrals to other channels: Some of the press reports quoted a Chase spokesperson referring users to the toll-free number as well as ATMs and branches where the systems were apparently working fine. The bank’s website message should also have made those recommendations. Even if live operator support was hopelessly backed up, the bank should admit that and encourage customers to call the toll-free number to check balances and other activity. 

Chase website grade = F

3. Apologize and reassure: From crisis management 101: apologize first, then reassure customers and tell them what you are doing to fix the problem. Chase was doing little of that from what I can see. There was no apology. There was no real explanation. And there was no reassurance that your money was safe. The information void was left to be filled with tweets and blog-post speculation. (15 Sep update: When I logged in today for the first time since the outage, there was no mention of the problem. And oddly, my last login showed as having happened during the middle of the outage. I’m trying to figure out how that could be; perhaps from my attempted iPhone app login?)

Chase website grade = Incomplete (I’m sure it’s coming, but it should have been visible today.)

4. Communications to mobile customers: If the mobile app is also down, you need to proactively send a message to app users explaining the situation. Conversely, if the mobile app or text messaging is working, refer Web customers to those channels.

Chase mobile grade = F (didn’t see that message)

All in all, a bad day for Chase online banking. But a good learning opportunity for everyone else.


Chase Bank homepage with “unavailable” message (14 Sep 2010, 3:41 PM Pacific)

Chase Bank homepage with new

Online banking main page with unavailable message (14 Sep 2010, 3:41 PM Pacific)

Chase Bank online banking main page with unavailable message

1. According to various Twitter messages, Chase online banking went down at about 10 PM Eastern time on Monday, 13 Sep and came back online a few minutes ago (1:45 AM Eastern, 15 Sep, Wed.), a little under 28 hours.

USAA is Amazing

imageHow did USAA become the most innovative bank in America? I guess its big-bank competitors have been kind of preoccupied with other matters the past few years. And because USAA serves most of its 5 million banking customers remotely, it stands to profit from pushing the envelope in online/mobile delivery. 

The latest proof that the bank is both innovative and adored? Posting user reviews right in the middle of the homepage, an inventive and unique approach. And with an average score of 4.7 out of 5 for both checking and auto insurance, the reviews serve as a transparent and effective mass endorsement.

Here’s the breakdown of scores received on 6,350 total reviews for USAA’s free checking account (as of 12 Aug 2010):

     5 stars (excellent) >>> 5,550  (87% of total)
     4 stars (good) >>>>>>    329  (5%)
     3 stars (average) >>>>   154   (2%)
     2 stars (fair) >>>>>>>    110   (2%)
     1 star (poor) >>>>>>>     214  (3%)

Relevance for Netbankers: Frankly, I never thought I’d see user reviews posted anywhere on a bank site, let alone the homepage (note 1). If your customers love you, I mean really love you, customer reviews posted directly to an in-house site is a great way to prove it (note 2).

USAA homepage (12 August 2010)
Note: Ad on top for its new Auto Circle car-buying service, complete with its own iPhone app.



1. Bank of America also posted user reviews on its site, but the feature appears to have been discontinued a while ago. The last reference I could find on Google about the reviews was in Jan. 2008.
2. This would not be an easy project and would require a significant investment in ongoing monitoring and maintenance. More importantly, it requires a thick skin; your organization would have to be comfortable with a certain amount of complaints being posted. As good as USAA’s overall score is, there are still 314 poor reviews posted, 3% of the total. But allowing customers a salient vent-fest on your website may keep them from doing so in more public venues such as Twitter. It also gives you a chance to respond to and resolve posted problems.

New Online Banking Report Published: Connecting to Customers with Twitter

obr 166_167 front page We just uploaded our latest Online Banking Report.
It will be mailed to subscribers next week. It’s also available online here. There’s no charge for current subscribers; others may access it immediately
for US$595.


Connecting to Customers with Twitter
The comprehensive guide to Twitter for financial institutions

84 pages (published 25 May 2009)

Twitter is everywhere these days (note 1). Those who use it think it’s the best thing since the invention of email. Those who don’t, think it’s just another Internet fad, enjoying its 15 minutes of fame before flaming out with only a Wikipedia entry to remember it by. 

imageThe reality: No one knows exactly how it will play out, but it’s something likely in between those two extremes.   

We are not surprised Twitter has taken off as a social connector. It’s a lot like other extremely popular communication methods: email, texting, and instant messaging. The rise of MySpace, Facebook and other social networks has paved the way.

image However, what’s surprising is that Twitter is actually a surprisingly effective, and extremely cost-effective, way for companies to engage online with customers and prospects (see Wachovia example in the inset).

Numbering more than 200 in the United States alone, there are already more financial institutions using Twitter than any other so-called social network. Most have started in the last month or two (see previous coverage). 

In this report (abstract), guest author Jeffry Pilcher (note 2), a branding and marketing guru who recently launched his own brand consultancy, ICONiQ, tells you exactly what you should and shouldn’t do with Twitter. He was an early adopter of the tool, and an expert on harnessing its power.

The report includes:

  • An overview of Twitter terminology and how the service works
  • Advice on how to develop a successful Twitter strategy and
    avoid common pitfalls
  • Explanations and examples of the different ways
    financial institutions are using Twitter 
  • A step-by-step guide on how to implement a Twitter strategy
    and navigate the “Twittersphere,” including explanations of
    how to create and customize a Twitter profile and presence

1. USA Today even had a story on the front of the Money section two weeks ago, entitled, “Banks try social networking, jump on Twitter wagon

2. Jeffry Pilcher blogs at The Financial Brand and frequently tweets here. He maintains a comprehensive listing of banks and credit unions on Twitter here.

The Upside of a Down Market

image Is it just me, or have people become more friendly lately?

I was flabbergasted, in a good way, by the service I received from Comcast yesterday. When our Internet service started failing Tuesday morning, I was initially worried we’d be out for a long time. At mid morning the Comcast call center was already backed up more than 10 minutes, but the friendly robot asked whether I’d prefer a call back instead of waiting on hold. I went with that option of course. Then, not only did they ring me when they said they would, the woman who called was the most empathetic tech support person I’ve ever conversed with.

Then (here’s the part that floored me), she said someone could come over that very day to fix it (note 1). The repair guy showed up on time, was nice as can be, seemed extremely knowledgeable, installed a new modem, and even put covers over his shoes before coming in the house. Comcast, you rock, and now I don’t feel nearly as bad about the $150/mo we send your way!

One thing about a nasty recession, it makes you appreciate your customers.

So in the vein, I’d like to thank the sponsors of our Netbanker blog, WorkLight, a Finovate Startup 2008 alum (video here), who has been handing out a free white paper via the ad on the upper right. And also our link sponsor on the bottom- right, Bankaholic, who is on its second year with us.

And as much as we like our sponsors, our biggest thanks is to you, the reader, who makes this all worthwhile. We’ve added more than 1,000 new subscribers in the past year, bringing the total to more than 8,500.

So thank you all from the Netbanker team!

1. This is just standard residential $45/mo Internet service.

ING Direct’s $1 Million in FDIC Coverage (email)

image It’s not easy deciding what messages to send to customers these days (note 1), but there’s no doubt a clear email about increased FDIC coverage is a winner. For example, ING Direct does a great job with this simple and very clear message outlining the temporary increase in U.S. deposit insurance coverage.

I especially like how they demonstrate how easy it is for joint account holders to get $1 million in coverage (note 2). It’s so much easier seeing it laid out in a table. Here’s the email sent to customers this afternoon under the subject:

Subject: Your FDIC coverage just went up

ING Direct customer email announcing new $250,000 FDIC coverage (8 Oct 2008)

1. Jeffry Pilcher posted some interesting quotes with differing perspectives on how to approach “crisis communications” in his Financial Brand blog today.

2. Not that many people need that, but it’s still somehow comforting to know that if you had to deposit your lottery proceeds, or if you were Mark Cuban and you shorted the DJIA at 1100 with 8% of your net worth, you wouldn’t have to spend so much time opening accounts to deposit your windfall.

Web-based Self-Service Debt Collection Makes the News


It’s not often that bank collection techniques make the business press, and when they do, it’s usually not a good story. But last week’s WSJ article by personal finance writer Jane Kim featured a relatively positive spin on how banks are working harder to collect revolving credit debt.

She cited two examples of Web-based self-service applications trying to turn early collection efforts into a non-confrontational, positive experience including:

  • WaMu’s self-service website, <>
  • The Virtual Collection Agent powered by Online Resources that is being rolled out by three of the top-10 card issuers. The system was first shown to the public at last year’s Finovate conference (video here)

You can only look at the WaMu collection site if you have a WaMu credit card (screenshot below), but in perusing domain-ownership records, it appears to be hosted by Online Resources, so it likely resembles the screenshot below, a generic mockup from the Online Resources website.

Note the settlement offer listed at the bottom of the page. This offer can be produced dynamically based on input from the user as they use the self-service site.

What’s innovative?
While it won’t work for everyone, collecting past-due debts is one of the trickier areas of bank operations. Financial institutions have to be careful not to be too aggressive early on so they don’t appear heavy-handed and end up driving away an otherwise profitable customer, not to mention that customer’s friends and family.

That’s why a gentle email/text reminder with a link to a self-service support area makes so much sense. Not only can you speed repayments from delinquent borrowers, but also garner valuable goodwill by offering a positive experience via a collaborative online tool. Given the current environment, Web-based collection efforts could maintain precious account relationships.

Virtual collection agent from online resources (19 Sep 2008Virtual Collection Agent from Online Resources 19 Sep 2008

WaMu’s Web-based collection website <> requires a WaMu card number for login  (19 Sept 2008)


Wachovia’s Initial Foray into Social Media is Impressive, Now Twitter That

Link to Wachovia Twitter page Taking a page from Wells Fargo’s playbook, Wachovia has ventured into social media, giving Twitter a try (see screenshot below and previous Twitter coverage here). The bank has sent 94 updates (aka Tweets) via its Twitter page since it began Aug. 18 and has amassed 340 followers.

But more importantly, they are leveraging the minimal customer-support expense to support Twitter (see note 1) with a nifty badge on its Contact Us page (see inset and screenshot below). That little bit of online marketing, demonstrating the Web-savviness of the banking colossus, is probably worth 1000x whatever goodwill they earn actually talking to customers via Twitter.

Wachovia Contact us page with Twitter badge 17 Sep 2008

I’ll admit, I was expecting the usual corporate marketing-speak. But Wachovia is actually using the medium very well. So far, the bank has provided a realistic mix of low-key promotional items such as the following “Ike update” with real customer service response (see second example below).

Example 1 (earlier today): Promotional Tweet today mentioning the bank’s Hurricane Ike response with link to more info, e.g., <>: 


Example 2 (this morning): Responding to a customer complaint: 


This last message is directed back to a customer who posted a complaint about Wachovia in his public Twitter stream. Wachovia could have sent it privately, but they elected to respond publicly.

This is surprisingly bold, considering that the bank risks elevating the issue. For example, anyone following Wachovia’s updates can click on bastille71’s username and see that she is upset about a $250 overdraft charge. It’s unlikely anyone outside bastille71’s friends would have known about that had Wachovia not responded publicly via Twitter.

Twitter user bastille71 But anyone who really believes in social media will argue that the bank has far more to gain by demonstrating real commitment to solving customer problems.

Looking further at the above example, bastille71 (inset) has 135 followers on Twitter, her own blog, and who knows how many friends on Facebook. What are the chances that if Wachovia ends up refunding her $250, bastille71 (aka Miss Rehobeth) will write it up in her blog, Twitter it, and even talk about it with her co-workers and friends? 

And if you need more ROI than that, Wachovia has already received a good payback on its Twitter investment (note 1) with a nearly full-page article in American Banker last week during an otherwise not-so-positive news cycle for banks. In addition, the customer service innovation made several blogs and of course the bank’s been Twittered about in a positive way.

1. There’s no real cost to using Twitter other than staffing it with a social-media-savvy customer-service rep and someone in marketing/PR to look over his or her shoulders.